Over the last week or so, President Obama and his team have begun, to use the Westen parlance, to tell a new story. As the White House sees it, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the nation, its institutions, or even the structure of its underperforming economy. What’s broken is American politics. The economy is a symptom of a larger disease — policymakers are fully capable of addressing this and other problems if our politics weren’t so badly broken.
Don’t blame one person or one piece of legislation for what frustrates you, the argument goes; blame those who won’t cooperate, won’t work in good faith, won’t take problem-solving seriously, and won’t put country above party. In other words, the nation is struggling because of the political extremists, like those dominating the Republican Party lately.
We heard Obama push this theme pretty hard last week in Michigan, and he’s been just as aggressive on this message during his bus tour in the Midwest this week.
With that in mind, in walks Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), using borderline-violent rhetoric towards Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and casually throwing around words like “treacherous” and “treasonous.” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today, “When you’re president or you’re running for president you have to think about what you’re saying because your words have greater impact. President Obama and we take the independence of the Federal Reserve very seriously and certainly think threatening the Fed chairman is probably not a good idea.”
As Greg Sargent explained very well this afternoon, rhetoric like Perry’s is exactly the sort of thing the White House needs to reinforce its larger message.
Here’s another reason Republican establishment figures have to be unhappy about Rick Perry’s implied threat towards Ben Bernanke: It plays into the Obama strategy of presenting himself as the “adult in the room” while elevating more prominent expressions of Republican excess or outright whackjobbery and using them as a convenient foil. […]
As Kevin Drum notes today, Obama has settled on a reelection narrative that is centered on the idea that he’s the only “sober, serious guy who’s fit to be president” in the room. He’s running against “Teh Crazy.” You can debate endlessly whether Obama is focusing his attacks too generally on “Congress” or whether he should be calling out Republicans more directly, but the overall objective is clear: Obama’s foil is Republican extremism and excess. Having the most prominent and accomplished true conservative in the presidential race suggest that a Republican Fed chairman may be guilty of treason, while implicitly threatening him with a species of Texas frontier justice — even in jest, if that’s how it was intended — can only help in this regard.
Exactly right. One of the lines I’ve heard Obama use three times in two days is, “I know you’re frustrated; I’m frustrated, too.” It’s part of a not-so-subtle effort to draw voters a picture: sensible people believe American politics is broken, and the president is on their side. The question for voters is whether someone like Obama, the grown-up who solves problems, or someone like Perry, the buffoon who accuses Ben Bernanke of treason, can be trusted to help make politics work again.
Perry is making the White House’s job much easier.